David J. Neal

David J. Neal: Final cuts in NFL a great idea for dramatic TV show

I’m surprised the NFL already doesn’t have Final Cuts: The End & The Beginning already shooting. It’s the natural next move for the Aaron Spelling of sports leagues.

Already the NFL shop produces the flagship continuing series: the NFL regular season and playoffs. Then, you’ve got the offseason miniseries, NFL Combine, NFL Free Agency, NFL Draft, at least the first and third with their own logos just like The Wire. There’s the annual training camp prequel to the flagship, Hard Knocks.

Final Cuts could slot in as a nightly thing from the next to last episode of Hard Knocks right into the season opening weekend. Or, maybe as weekly filler during May and June.

Roster cuts fascinate me. Especially those who’ve killed time talking to players as people, seeing a name with whom you’ve discussed family or roots among the now-unemployed triggers a reminder: he just got lined up against a major life transition. Will he handle it? Or will it handle him? Final Cuts would follow a few men answering that question.

This year, you’d have an established veteran, such as cornerback Champ Bailey. Bailey’s future Hall of Fame induction and past dozen Pro Bowls meant nothing now. The injuries on his 36-year-old body meant everything.

New Orleans cut him Saturday.

What now for Bailey? All 15 autumns of his adult life, he has been the best at what he does each day at work.

One day, post-practice, card-playing Dolphins watched highlights of a Denver game against Dallas, I think. Former Dolphin Andre Goodman played the corner opposite Bailey. Needing a touchdown for the win, Dallas threw Bailey’s way on the game’s last play. Incomplete.

The Dolphins almost fell off their chairs laughing in disbelief and at Goodman’s body language they felt echoed their sentiments: “What were they doing? Love ya, Goody ... but, that’s Champ! You don’t go at Champ!”

Not anymore. Soon, he will be as much a former player as other guys with half his talent and a smidgen of his accomplishments.

Then, you have guys like Isame Faciane, the defensive tackle from FIU. Faciane is serious about cooking. He has talked about combining his the Cajun-style cooking from his native Louisiana with world cuisine. He got cut Saturday and now sits on Minnesota’s practice squad.

The practice squad is NFL purgatory. You’re on the team but not quite. You’re someone else’s injury from a roster and just that close also to after football. Which means you better start getting ready for that next thing. Final Cuts would follow a guy like Faciane maybe going to culinary school at night.

And all the younger guys on Final Cuts — the practice squad guys and guys like former NFL player Courtney Bryan, who worked at Arby’s when he couldn’t latch on with a team out of training camp — keep the dream in their minds of being James Harrison.

Harrison got cut three times by Pittsburgh. He did two years bouncing off and on Pittsburgh’s practice squad. Too short to be a linebacker without the Texas Instruments computer mind of a Zach Thomas and too light to be a defensive end went the book on Harrison. Baltimore agreed and cut him again.

The Ravens paid for that dearly after an injury opened the door to Harrison making Pittsburgh’s roster in 2012. Harrison overcame his shortcomings with a Sunday devotion to diligence and violence. He went from being a regular cut to Defensive Player of the Year and one of the last of the old-school hitters.

On Saturday, unwanted and unsigned by anybody, Harrison retired on final cut day. He declared via Facebook he no longer wished to miss the mundane family life events. Now what? He’s said he wants to be a veterinarian.

Television I’d watch in the summer.

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